When it’s done well, it’s about as much fun as you can have with your pants on. And this is how it is at Montreal’s Joe Beef empire.
Much of that attitude stems from sommelier Vanya Filipovic, who comes by her trade with bred-in-the-bone authenticity: her father was a chef and her mother a wine steward. She worked at Joe Beef from its inception in 2005, assumed responsibility for the wine program four years later, and became a partner in their sister restaurant-cum-wine bar Le Vin Papillon, which opened in 2013.
That restaurant’s insouciant Instagram persona belies a deadly serious approach that feels like a crusade to rid the world of inferior wine. Filipovic is credited with nurturing the natural wine craze in Montreal and thus upsetting, against all odds, the city’s obsession with the wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux. Any wine she considers spectacular is fair game for her ever-changing list, and that might be defined by such non-conventional criteria as a winemaker’s (or a wine’s) narrative, experimentation, authenticity (hard to pin down, that one), innovation…and, from time to time, penchant for anarchy. To that end, there is no Cabernet Sauvignon on her list (got a problem with that?).
Filipovic travels as much as possible, works the occasional harvest, and never stops advocating for her cause. Lucky guests are treated to tastings of her latest finds. This is hospitality as it should be, though in the guise of a kind of market research and social lubrication. More than that, it’s all a bloody good time. So, for fostering a wine sensibility that we can really get behind, we declare Vanya Filipovic to be the Best Sommelier 2018. — DICK SNYDER